Wish Dream Destroys Christian Community

wishdreamIn my sermon yesterday (5/25/14), C is for Community, I shared extemporaneously about “wish dream,” a phrase coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic Life Together. Frank Viola, Christian author and blogger, says that the wish dream is “one of the most profound and helpful things that Bonhoeffer ever wrote.” This applies to any church, (Christian) community or relationship.

I quoted Bonhoeffer: “God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community (wish dream) demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren…”

After the sermon I was asked, “Are you saying that the church should not have a vision or a dream? I thought it is always good for us to have a vision and a dream for the church.”

So is a wish dream bad? Bonhoeffer says, “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” “He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.”

My random thoughts are these. Every person has some dream, vision or hope. My dream is that West Loop Church increasingly becomes a gospel community where Christ is preached and lived out, and where anyone and everyone is welcomed without prejudice and without being imposed upon. But this was not my dream in the past. Prior to West Loop starting in 2008 my dream, given to UBF by Dr. Lee, was to make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

UBF’s wish dreams are expressed in our “core values” (and in prayer topics and announcements). Our initial wish dream when I came to UBF in 1980 was to pray for UBF Bible teachers in 561 American campuses and 231 nations of the world. This dream gave me a motivation of how I could practically love Jesus with all my heart. I read the Bible once a year. Every week I spent hours studying and teaching Dr. Lee’s Sun sermons, answered the Bible study questions, prepared Bible study binders, wrote testimonies, and carried out an average of 10 1:1 Bible studies a week. I gave “message training” to my Bible students for decades. With Dr. Lee’s support, I helped dozens of them to marry by faith for UBF world campus mission. I did this for over 25 years. I have no regrets about any of this because I did so with a clear conscience to love Jesus.

What then is the problem? It was that my wish dream became my identity and my sense of self-worth. It became the core of who I was. My “wish” to fulfill my “(UBF) dream” became my will, my demand, my obsession, my sensibility, my imposition on my church community, and worst of all it became my Christ, my everything. I forget that human beings are NOT the ones to create the community.

Last week a friend shared with me a “wish dream” by a top UBF leader who said (I’m paraphrasing), “Being a 1:1 Bible teacher and testimony writing is absolute.” Besides violating the freedom taught in Galatians, such a wish dream according to Bonhoeffer is “a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.”

Is wish dream a concept easily understood by UBF?

Can UBF stop propagating the UBF wish dream?

Can UBF understand why the UBF wish dream hinders genuine community?

38 comments

  1. AndreyP

    I have no regrets about any of this because I did so with a clear conscience to love Jesus. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/26/wish-dream-destroys-christian-community/#more-7982

    Ben, I do regret bothering you with some strange questions.

  2. Ben,

    “Life Together” is a stupendous read, provided we don’t look for justification or affirmation of our preconceived ideas about community. I love that quote you mention about community.

    Here are three more quotes that struck a deep chord in my soul.

    Bonhoeffer recognizes numerous kinds of community and never demands only one kind…

    “Christians who live dispersed from one another are comforted by a brief visit of another Christian, a prayer together, and another Christian’s blessing. Indeed, they are strengthened by letters written by the hands of other Christians. Paul’s greetings in his letters written in his own hand were no doubt tokens of such community. Others are given the gift on Sundays of the community of the worship service. Still others have the privilege of living a Christian life in the community of their families. Before their ordination young seminarians receive the gift of a common life with their brothers for a certain length of time.” –Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), Page 28 | Loc. 658-63

    Bonhoeffer mentions the grace of God can frustrate noble wishdreamers…

    “On innumerable occasions a whole Christian community has been shattered because it has lived on the basis of a wishful image. Certainly serious Christians who are put in a community for the first time will often bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life [Zusammenleben] should be, and they will be anxious to realize it. But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams.” –Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), Page 35 | Loc. 776-80

    Bonhoeffer insists we must know how to live alone and in community…

    “Whoever cannot be alone [allein] should beware of community. 2 Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has singled you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.” –Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), Page 82 | Loc. 1808-10

    • And that last quote continues:

      “But the reverse is also true. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone. You are called into the community of faith; the call was not meant for you alone. You carry your cross, you struggle, and you pray in the community of faith, the community of those who are called.” –Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), Page 83 | Loc. 1814-15

  3. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Ben, the beginning of the first quote, “God hates visionary dreaming,” sounds questionable, especially in view of a passage like Acts 2:17. I may not be seeing it in context? But the rest of the quote makes a lot of sense regarding the imposing of a person’s visions and dreams of and on a community.

    When you said that the UBF wish dream became your identity, self-worth, and that you forgot that human beings are NOT the ones to create the community, it came across to me as a personal problem. Identity is huge issue. It can be scary to have your identity challenged. The community ideal then is not only demanded of to its members, but can entrap them.

    Obviously, you’re mentioning wish dream as a widespread community problem, but it is interesting that although your wish dream was UBF’s, you expressed it in the first person here rather than saying “we” or “our.”

    Also, is the creation of a community by God something you forgot? Had you learned it at one time and then forgot it?

    I think the answer to your questions are all, “Yes, UBF can…” As with anyone, it can be so when UBF is willing to listen to others rather than promote itself.

  4. Speaking of community… here is some news and questions about “community building” in the upcoming months at ubf:

    * 81% of all ubf chapters worldwide are just 1 or 2 families. How will they be supported?

    “1. Sunday worship service attendees: 8,657 (2011) 8,800 (2012, +143)  9,007 (2013, +207). Remarkable growth in 2013 occurred in Asia (+71), CIS (+61) and Latin America (+53).
    2. Among the 323 international UBF chapters, 159 chapters consist of one family (49%); 71 chapters consist of two families (22%); and 93 chapters consist of three or more families (29%). Most of the one-family chapters are struggling to raise one ancestor of faith. Please pray for those chapters.”

    * What does “maturity” and “keeping honor” and “training” mean in the ubf definitions/context?

    “Direction for 2014
    1. Key verse: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2Tim 4:2)
    2. Pray for God’s hope and vision for us:
    • Maturity as a church in love and humility;
    • Carry out God’s mission by keeping honor (world campus mission), training (discipleship), and community (No person left behind).”

    * What was this agenda really about?

    “The agenda consisted of:
    – Transitioning to 20 members to overseers (Acts 20:28) presented by Greg Lewis of Toledo
    – North America UBF Chapter guideline for child education (Luke 2:52) (love for God, wisdom, service, friendship, discipleship) praise and worship, games, ice breakers. Group bible studies, personal prayer time, sermons/messages, eating fellowship, sports) Presenter was David Choi of Chicago. Useful website –
    http:// mbfhbf.blogspot.com
    – UBF Guidelines for baptism, communion, weddings, funerals (UBF is non-denominational. Sample order of ceremony for baptism, communion, weddings, funerals made available by Pastor Ron.)
    – House church by Dr Jim Rabchuck
    (Bible study, Sunday worship, evangelism)
    – Shepherding with integrity (a UBF code of ethics) by John Kwon (1 Tim 3:1-12) (Mat 9:36) (A process, accountability committee)”

    * Perhaps this is a good step toward community building online?

    mbfhbf blog

    News about ubf links:

    source 1

    source 2

  5. “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” – Bonhoeffer

    Genuine honest (but probably irritating question for everyone to consider): Is there something like what Bonhoeffer describes above that is operating even in this own UBFriends community? A wish-dream, no matter how noble or well-intentioned, that is also ironically destroying community? I don’t mean to be intentionally provocative and irritating, but I think this community is honest, open and transparent enough to confront this question head-on – probably better than most Christian leaders in the Church today. If there is a “wish-dream” operating here, then what will we as a UBFriends community do about it? Just throwing it out there…but I could be completely off-base. :)

    I confess that the recent ministry I was part of also started to become my own “wish-dream.” I was so passionate that this ministry would be God’s instrument to bring restoration, renewal, and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. When it apparently seemed to bring the opposite of that, I was at first upset at others, and then myself, and then lastly at God Himself. When I re-read this book by Bonhoeffer, it seemed that the man was talking about me. I found myself injecting my own wish-dream into the ministry that began to develop in opposition to others’ wish-dreams.

    Nevertheless, upon further reflection, I cannot deny that there was a seed of vision that came from the Lord. And yet I cannot also deny that there were my own weeds that grew up along with that holy seed. And the Lord being the gracious God that He is, he allowed them to both grow up together in the meantime while I was involved in this ministry. So in the end, I don’t blame those that reacted to the wish-dream weeds that grew up in the process of my ministry, for I had done the very thing in reacting to the wish-dream weeds that had come before me.

    Lord, may the seed of your Kingdom grow and overcome the weeds of all the hearts of Your beloved children. Lord, please come and burn up those wish-dreams weeds in my heart and harvest any grain that came from the seeds which you had planted. Come Lord Jesus. Your Kingdom come.

  6. Excellent question, JohnY, which I have often asked myself and hopefully keep myself in check (even if I very likely fail far far more than I succeed!): “Is there something like what Bonhoeffer describes above that is operating even in this own UBFriends community?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/26/wish-dream-destroys-christian-community/#comment-14116

    The obvious answer is “absolutely yes.” For sure I cannot impose my UBFriends wish dream on UBF. I will also try my best not to do so (and still fail). But I will not stop speaking up and speaking out (usually very very messily!) until some form of meaningful reconciliation (meeting cilia to cilia) occurs. As much as I want to I also cannot even force this reconciliation wish dream on UBF!

    JohnY, I wholeheartedly welcome and trust you as a peacemaker based on your personality disposition and especially your faith.

  7. I don’t think so John, and I’ve thought about this a lot. What you have here, rather, is a community of people who share common grievances and share similar “shadow stories” simply because we share similar experiences within a dominant group that happens to maintain its dominance in a very consistent way. It is very hard for those of us who have experienced the oppression of this dominant group to keep quiet when we hear it defended. So you feel a lot of unity here. But it is not a common wish dream.

  8. The need to speak out against injustice could become a wish dream for some….but I think for most of us here it is just a necessary step towards healing and even obeying God. Giving voice to our experience is extremely important for many reasons. Also, I don’t judge those who continue to keep speaking out for many years either. How do you know whether or not they are obeying God’s spirit in doing so?

  9. Hi JohnY,

    You raise excellent questions. And yes we can address them head-on. I no longer believe that one person, namely myself, can ever be fully objective, especially something I am passionate about. We need multiple perspectives to arrive at a commonly held truth. And we really do need reality checks regularly to keep us all from living in a fantasy world.

    So here are my subjective thoughts on your two questions.

    “Is there something like what Bonhoeffer describes above that is operating even in this own UBFriends community?”

    I feel that we need a deeper answer than merely a binary reaction to this question.

    What does “genuine community look like”? Genuine community to me does not look like a masquerade ball. A genuine community is first of all a safe place to remove your masks, to be yourself, to make mistakes, to be emotional, to share your hopes and to interact in mutual dialogue.

    What does a “wish dream” look like? In this ubfrineds context, John, the best picture I can give is your recent request to us ubfriends admins (me, Ben, Joe). A while back you expressed your frustration about the tone of ubfriends lately. You wanted the admins team to “reboot” ubfriends. We did not agree to this request. If we held to a wish dream of some sorts, a reboot sounds appealing. At the time Bonhoeffer’s words came to my mind. It would be comforting for a while if I could reshape and restart this blog to match some ideal image of Christian discussion I may have. Instead, we admins decided to let the discussions play out on their own.

    So to me a wish dream means we have an ideal plan of what something (like our blog) should be, then we work toward shaping that dream. I reject this approach now that I’ve gone through a complete paradigm shift in my life journey. I do not reject visionary thinking. A vision is important. But to me now I understand the vast ocean of difference between dictating conformance to a wish dream and navigating the execution of a vision.

    So my answer is yes, ubfriends began with a wish dream of sorts. Our early articles from July 2010 show that some of us wanted to discuss Christian certain topics with some kind of dream of nice, comfy discussion.

    But even though someone here may indeed have a wish dream to conform us into some ideal identity, and we do need to guard against wish dreams, my answer is no, there is not a wish dream here. Bonhoeffer is right in the sense that we all bring our own baggage to this virtual community, but as I see it, we admins have given up on any initial wish dream we might have had for this bog.

    We are now all sharing and discussing. I have no dream to make ubfriends the most vocal anti-ubf critical website. I have my own priestlynation.com blog for that purpose :)

    When I re-read Joe’s initial purpose statement, I see only a mild wish dream at best. I for one seriously had a strong wish-dream to not allow this website to denigrate ubf in any way. I had to give up that wish dream. But other than that, in fact, I think the original purpose has come true. Genuine community has arisen here.

    “This website is not intended to promote or denigrate UBF or any organization. Our purpose is to serve people by giving them an independent forum to learn, to think, and to express themselves in a healthy and friendly manner. We hope that this website will:

    -foster multi-way conversations among friends

    -open new channels of communication and friendships among people of different ages and backgrounds, overcoming prejudice and stereotypes

    -help members of UBF develop stronger connections to the broader Christian community

    -help us to see multiple sides of difficult issues and truly learn from one another, even when we do not agree

    Whether you are a current member of UBF, a former member or a nonmember, you are welcome to visit this site and join in the discussion. We are all friends here. Any opinions expressed here belong to the individuals who express them. They are not necessarily the views of University Bible Fellowship, the staff of UBFriends.org, or any other organization.

    There are no ideological litmus tests for material posted on this website. We regard you, our readers, as grownups who can discuss matters with kindness and civility, weigh different viewpoints and make up your own minds. Because we trust Jesus, we also trust you.”

    – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/about/#sthash.D1C2YfcP.dpuf

  10. JohnY, Does UBFriends have a wish dream?? Brian says NO, I say YES, and I believe that we are both totally perfectly absolutely fine with that! At least I am.

    • lol. If you are referring to a “wish dream” that some of us want to impose on ubf, then I agree, Ben, yes we have a wish dream and we should not try to impose our wish on ubf. That is primarily why I won’t give any advice any longer to ubf people. It’s not my ministry, do with it what you want.

    • Indeed, Ben, we need a deeper answer than merely “yes” or “no”. Also I want to point out that our “no mask policy” often makes this an unsafe place for people who want to wear their ubf mask.

  11. JohnY,

    Your second question deserves a response as well:

    “If there is a “wish-dream” operating here, then what will we as a UBFriends community do about it?”

    As I pointed out, the current admins here are allowing all kinds of discussions to take place here without our own agenda or wish dream. If that is in itself a wish dream, then I think we have deviated from the meaning of “wish dream”.

    But ask any article contributor. We publish what we receive, when we receive it, with no editorial review board. This blog is for the most part an open mic. We don’t filter out articles or comments. We don’t dictate or attempt to control any comment or article here.

    We have in my recollection only rejected 1 article and that was in order to protect the person who submitted the article. I pushed back on a second article but then we published it anyway. And we removed 1 or 2 comments due to extremely sensitive information about a person who likely would never read here. In all these cases, we contacted the contributor privately and explained our actions.

    We will however protect against one thing: We will not allow anyone to dictate the kinds of discussions that occur here. We will work to clear the way so people can say what they want to say about what they want to talk about.

    If someone doesn’t like the content, the answer is easy: Submit your own content.

  12. I’m confused. I don’t think the question is whether or not this community shares a wish-dream. The question is whether or not this phenomena is active in this community. I think that this phenomenon is always active in human beings. But I don’t think that it is helpful to ascribe it to this whole community and I’m not sure that John was implying this.

  13. I think that “wish dream” is a confusing term. All human beings have wishes and dreams. Sometimes I foolishly wonder if I should wish and dream about attaining a 6-pack, which is totally ludicrous and virtually practically impossible because of zero discipline! Yet, I still wish and dream.

    What I believe Bonhoeffer is speaking of is when one tries to forcibly (even biblically) impose their wish dream on others in the community.

    It has not worked, it is not working and it will never work.

  14. Joe Schafer

    I agree with the last three comments. When I started this website four years ago, I did so with a wish and a dream. I thought that my wish and dream were inspired and consistent with what God wanted to accomplish. And I still believe that. The wishes and dreams I had, which are spelled out in the “Purpose” on the sidebar, are still worthwhile and good.

    However, as the months and years went by, this website took on a life of its own. I tried to manage and shepherd it to conform to my understanding of what it should look like. But I couldn’t force it to be what I wanted, because I couldn’t control the actions and decisions of ubf leaders, nor could I control the thoughts and words and responses of people who visit this website. To control it myself would be to kill it.

    Individuals can and should exercise self control. By and large, I believe that they do. Any one of us can disagree with anyone else and encourage one another to use more restraint. But that kind of advice will be effective only if there are growing bonds of trust and friendship and love. Self control cannot be forced upon anyone. Nor can trust. Nor can love.

    • …You too. And Chris, and Brian, etc…. Forests GC, John and anyone else I’m forgetting. I find the honesty very endearing.

    • Thanks for the shout-out Sharon. But no need to name a list of names, because we each know we are awesome!

  15. Besides delving into the meaning of “wish dream” I think it is productive to consider the outcome. As Jesus said “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7)

    We should honestly ask “Is my community destructive in any way?” Bonhoeffer mentions that wish dreams will destroy community. So even if we don’t fully comprehend what a wish dream is, we can look at the fruit of a community.

    • “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

      You just need to be careful when “fruit” is redefined to mean number of sheep, or number of shepherds and their degree of uniformity, commitment and obediece, and not love, joy, peace etc. You also need to be careful to discern fake love, fake joy, coerced peace from real love, joy, peace.

    • Yes indeed Chris. One reason our glossary of ubf terms ended up being 50 pages is that so many words are redefined in the KOPHN worldview. In order to resolve the glaring contradictions in the ubf heritage slogans that make up the structure of KOPHN, one has to redefine terms.

      One of the key terms is “fruit”. Making fruit into a numerical statistic has allowed many justifications for enabling and propagating the ubf KOPHN worldview. As long as “fruit” increased, KOPHN was justified as successful. Because genuine spiritual awakening has historically occurred in ubf members, “fruit” seemed to be born.

      But this game is ending. “Fruit” has drastically dropped. Even though the ubf newsletter can spin numbers to show an increase, numbers have dropped significantly from 2008 to 2014, both offering numbers and member numbers. An inside source tells me that numbers have really fallen off in Korea but I have no confirmation of that.

      If we do not redefine fruit and use the bible’s meaning of the word, we can then see a more real picture of what is going on in ubf. After genuine spiritual awakening, some students begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit and gain much energy as Christ’s words come alive to them. But then one of two things usually happen:

      1. ubf leaders sap that Spirit-induced vision and energy by demanding more and more ubf meetings. The Spirit is resisted and quenched by this.

      or

      2. ubf leaders ignore or shun the Spirit-indwelled person, probably because the person is speaking up and questioning KOPHN in ways that the leaders cannot handle. Suddenly the Spirit-indwelled person now has a “spiritual problem”. The Spirit is grieved and insulted by this.

  16. So the “destruction” caused by the ubf “wish dream”, which is the KOPHN worldview, is the resisting, quenching, grieving and insulting of the Holy Spirit. These are 4 of the 5 sins against the Spirit the bible mentions. The bible lists one more sin against the Spirit, blasphemy, but I see no reason to ascribe that to what ubf has done. Perhaps because we ubf leaders stopped short of blasphemy is a reason why it is so complicated for some to see ubf correctly.

    Just sharing some random thoughts that this article about community stirred up in me. I think the Holy Spirit has just as much, if not more, to do with building a Christian community as the Holy Scriptures do. I think I hear a new article… and I want to re-read Joe’s excellent series on the Holy Spirit: Does what we know about him really matter?.

  17. Joe Schafer

    Regarding the wish-dream: Here is something that I saw in a recent report on ubf.org.

    “The main lecture 2 entitled, ‘You Will be my Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth’ based on Acts 1:1-8 was given by Wangkyu Koh. He boldly testified that we ought to be witnesses of risen Christ by faith transcending realities.”

    Later in the same report:

    “Most of all, we focused on ‘Seek first his kingdom and righteousness’ because it is the only way for us to overcome realities and to have true freedom and life in obeying the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    The full report is at http://ubf.org/content/hanyang-1-ubf-had-their-spring-conference

    The reason that I mention this is that one of the things I was taught in UBF is that faith and obedience would enable me to transcend the boundaries of “ordinary” or “human” life to experience a “spiritual” life, some type of a higher plane of existence. I realize that this report was written in Korea and there might be issues in translation. But this is not a fluke. One of the recurrent themes in SL’s messages and announcements was that we needed to “overcome our human limitations” by our decisions of faith. I used to accept that idea and thought it was normal. But now I realize how strange and unlike the gospel it is.

    The mystery of the Incarnation is that God became flesh and entered our actual human experience. The good news is that God’s kingdom has come and will come “on earth as it is in heaven.” Disciples of Jesus aren’t supposed to escape the ordinariness of this world to live in some abstract hyperplane (what Brian calls the KOPAHN fantasy). The gospel should bring us out of the wish-dream and keep us firmly grounded in the present reality, the here and now, to experience God with us and working in our midst. The present reality isn’t neat or tidy. We cannot control what happens in this place or what the people around us do. But Jesus is reigning here, and his disciples ought to remain here with him.

    • Very good point to consider Joe. This cuts to the heart of everything that has transpired during this 4th ubf crisis, starting in 2011.

      Here is an enlightening exercise. Search for various words on the ubf.org website, and you will get a rather good idea of what ubf teaches.

      For example, looking up the word “reality” on ubf.org reveals that ubf leaders who share the reports on ubf.org view “reality” in a very negative light.

      “reailty” to a ubf leader seems to be dark, cold, lonely, sinful and part of their “old life”. This huge disconnect and re-definition of “reality” played a major role in my leaving and resigning of ubf, and continues to play a role in why I keep speaking up, meeting ubf people and blogging about ubf.

    • So while “wish dream” leads us to an abstract hyperplane of “spiritual existence” that requires some sort of mask and false identity, the Holy Spirit indwelling is a genuine mystical experience that leads us to face the facts of our reality, remove our mask, and connect with our authentic self.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Right, Joe. We may actually end up attributing and imposing promises and directions on others in the name of God to their own detriment, regarding very detailed aspects of their earthly lives, where we should not be speaking.

      Here’s one way I’ve seen it applied:
      If you have faith and devote your ____ to God, you will receive the best from him and you will be happy and blessed. You devote it primarily by giving ____ up and putting your campus mission first.

      You can fill the blank space with such words as school, marriage, job, family.

      You may, however, end up feeling deceived and say what Jeremiah did in Jeremiah 20:7. The words “overcome” and “transcend” might be deceptive, and even better replaced with “ignore.”

      I’ve had questions about this myself and often wonder if I or others should have given more attention to classes, building a career and investing in family. There is danger in this logic that either strings a person along further or paralyzes them. It even makes difficulty in listening to Bible passages. For example, how would a person accustomed to hearing about overcoming their reality interpret Hebrews 11:8-19, which, in talking about Abraham’s faith, mentioned that he did several things “even though” his reality said otherwise (didn’t know where he was going, Canaanites already in the land, famine, no son). So, when things don’t go as expected, a person might ask later on, “Isn’t God sovereign? Shouldn’t I trust him?” It can be quite confusing. But the confusion is dismissed by the call to faith.

      This is not to take away any blessings people have received by decisions of faith, but it does make me think more and more of how “shepherds”, including myself, in counseling or discipling others, need to take several steps back and more carefully watch what we say.

    • Such beliefs are also well known from health & wealth gospel preachers and secular “positive thinking” trainers. Here is a typical quote from Paul Yonggi (David) Cho (The Fourth Dimension, Volume Two, pp.26-27): “We should always try to visualize the end result as we pray…. If you have not visualized clearly in your heart exactly what you hope for, it cannot become a reality to you….” “We have taught our people how to… visualize success…. Through visualizing and dreaming, you can incubate your future and hatch the results.”

    • I heard tens of times ubf messages on Jesus and the “young man” from Nain. The ubf lessons were always: “Jesus has the resurrection power and is stronger than death” and “young man must live as a young man, change the world, have vision and make his country into a kopahn”. I never heard about compassion toward widows in ubf messages. In ubf you will always hear “young man! get up!” but will never hear “Jesus gave him back to his mother”. Have you heard from a ubf shepherd/missionary that Jesus wants you to take care of your parents/family ?

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, I recall that in one of SL’s messages (I can’t remember which one) he talked about how sinful modern America was because Americans often put their sick parents in nursing homes instead of taking care of them in their own homes. Perhaps it was a message on the Ten Commandments, in the part about honoring your father and mother. When I heard that message, I remember thinking in the back of my mind, “Okay, I agree with that. We are supposed to honor our parents.” And then a great sense of sadness and guilt came over me because, under the direct influence and direction of SL, I had become estranged from my Christian parents and hurt them so deeply.

    • Joe, I’m fairly certain you and all ubf messengers could say the same as me: I don’t have to look a SL’s messages to find such things. I only need to look at my own messages. And for that I am deeply sorry.

  18. Great point Chris.

    This is not distinctively Christian, “We should always try to visualize the end result as we pray” I would say this has some value however.

    I think the bottom line for me is that we need to discern between fantasy/reality, wishdream/vision, positive thinking/belief and a whole host of other things that can either be false and empty or genuine and vibrantly helpful.

    This song comes to mind, Wish you were here, for often this is a fine line to walk :) Can we really tell between heaven and hell? Blue skies and pain?

    • Joe Schafer

      Visualization is a key part of Ignatian spirituality, and many Protestants have seen value of it. But the Yonggi Cho version seems immature and weird. In classic Ignatian spirituality, you are encouraged to read narratives from Scripture, especially from the gospels, and imaginatively place yourself in the scene as an observer or a participant. This is a great way to make Scripture come alive. The Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus encourage us to visualize the kingdom of God, what it will look like in the future and how it would look if the kingdom started to break into our present reality. This can be an extremely useful way to pray. On the other hand, Yonggi Cho encouraged people to visualize the specific things that they want or need from God and focus on the details those things. For example, once he decided that he needed a pickup truck. So he visualized a truck of a particular style and color and meditated on it until God gave him one.

    • “For example, once he decided that he needed a pickup truck. So he visualized a truck of a particular style and color and meditated on it until God gave him one.”

      I remember how I read one of his books in which he wrote about how poor he was when he was young, something like he only had a chair, but no table to put his Bible on. So he started to “pray” for that table, and at the same time told people about these prayers, and then suddenly someone “myteriously” donated him the exact table he prayed for. I was still in UBF and very naive when I read this, but even then I immediately saw how fishy this was. I guess when he saw how this method worked, he tried the same not only with tables, but also with trucks.

    • This sounds hokey. But God is gracious and generous and he always blesses us out of his mercy and kindness, even when we are “way off.”

    • I think, Ben, that when we are “way off”, God may knock us off our horse sometimes…

  19. Vitaly I really really appreciate these words:

    “I never heard about compassion toward widows in ubf messages. In ubf you will always hear “young man! get up!” but will never hear “Jesus gave him back to his mother” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/26/wish-dream-destroys-christian-community/#comment-14156

    Surely we read Luke 7 over and over at ubf. Luke 7 is one of the banner passages ubf missionaries love, along with John 4, Genesis 22, etc. Perhaps we should do a series of articles re-looking at these infamous passages from a non-ubf viewpoint?

    For me and I’m sure all ubfers, Luke 7:13-15 was overshadowed by the massive emphasis on obedience and loyalty of the Centurion. ubfers love Luke 7. But today, thanks to you Vitaly, this passage of Scripture is now redeemed in my mind, and has new meaning.

    These words penetrate into my deepest being this morning: “…and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”